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Book Review: Digital Restoration From Start To Finish, Second Edition by Ctien

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On the surface it may seem hard, but according to Ctien, author of Digital Restoration From Start To Finish, it is no more magical or mysterious than ordinary printing… and no less. Yet it still feels like a minor miracle has occurred when it happens. Done properly, digital restoration recovers and restores a photograph to its proper glory without harming the original.

In Digital Restoration you will learn how to scan faded and damaged prints or films, correct uneven exposure, correct skin tones, repair small and large cracks, erase mildew spots, eliminate dots from newspaper photographs, increase fine detail, and much, much more. This book is 446 pages in length and breaks down into 13 chapters.

Chapter 1, "The Big Picture," takes a look at what your overall goal is in restoration. You have to start off with an idea of what problems you're dealing with so you can determine the correct path you need to go down to do a proper restoration. There are many factors to consider and by taking a look at the big picture, you will be better prepared to know what to expect in the end.

Chapter 2, "Hardware for Restoration Work," starts off with the bottom line. You need plenty of memory, fast hard drive space, and media to store your data off site. This chapter goes over everything you need and why it is needed. Chapter 3, "Software for Restoration Work," now does the same for software. While Digital Restoration is oriented toward Photoshop, there are a number of alternative products that are introduced as well as supplementary products that help with fixing photographs.

Chapter 4, "Getting the Photo into the Computer," must be done before you can restore it. This is generally done using a flatbed or film scanner. This chapter goes over the methods for un-mounting a slide, scanning slides, Black and White images, and color negatives as well as all of the techniques to ensure a good starting point. Chapter 5, "Restoring Tone," examines how to evaluate contrast, change overall brightness, how to make a print look more brilliant, and much more.

Chapter 6, "Restoring Color," describes how to make a scan that produces good color. It also looks at various ways to correct color, retouch skin tones, hand-tint a photograph, and remove developer stains from a color negative. Chapter 7, "Making Masks," will show you how to eliminate tarnish from a photo, use various techniques for selecting cracks in an image, and how to minimize cellophane tape damage.

Chapter 8, "Damage Control," is all about cleaning up dust and imperfections, repairing badly scratched slides, minimizing scratches in prints, removing water spots, eliminating mildew spots, and repairing large cracks. Chapter 9, "Tips, Tricks, and Enhancements," now looks at ways to scan photos with a lot of contrast variation, how to increase sharpness, combine scans to make one large photograph, and even create a tintype.

Chapter 10, "Beautification," examines finishing the image that has been repaired so that you can present it with the best look possible. Here you will see how to create a finished restoration layer, improve tonality, and how to shave off the worst noise. Chapter 11, "Examples," are case studies in restoration. This chapter takes a photograph and describes in varying detail how it was restored.

Chapter 12, "Printing Tips," describes how to determine the correct printer for the type of work you want to do. Here you will learn about profiling the printer, get printing tips, and discover how display and storage conditions can be used for maximum print longevity. Chapter 13, "Archiving and Permanence," looks at the needs for digital storage. This includes the fact that over time even storage media decays, and you'll need to know what you can do to preserve your images not only now, but for the future.

There is a lot to like about Digital Restoration. First is the layout and ease of use. Not only is the table of contents detailed and easy to work with, there is a second table of contents that is strictly for "How-To's" so you don't have to muddle through the standard table of contents when you want a refresher on a specific topic like "How to photograph tarnished or textured prints."

Second, while this is a second edition and some of the first edition has been replaced, there is a website that gives you access to this first edition material. Third, I like the quick diagnosis, following the table of contents, that effectively says "if your photo looks like this" and "you want it to look like this" then "try the methods on pages…". This gives you a great starting point from which to begin.

If you are looking to restore photographs, then Digital Restoration From Start To Finish is a must-have book. It gives you everything you need to get started on restoration. If you own the first edition, this new edition updates many of the techniques that the author used before. Because of more powerful computers and more memory, he is now using more layers and other techniques for restoration and so it is probably worth the investment as well. If you want to learn to do photographic restoration the correct way, then I highly recommend Digital Restoration From Start To Finish .

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.